Pattadakal (ಪಟ್ಟದಕಲ್ಲು) is a protected world Heritage Site and it is a glorious example of Badami Chalukyan architecture and sculpture. Badamai, Aihole and Pattadakal constitute a triumvirate of temple complexes that were built during the seventh and eighth centuries and Pattadakal is deemed to be the culmination of the experiments that started in Aihole. Pattadakal region is significant for archaeological reasons also.

Pattadakal is located in Bagalakot district of north Karnataka at a distance of about 514 Kilometers from Bangalore and 22 kilometers from Badami. Pattadakal is unique because it is a combination of the Dravida Vimana, Nagara, Rekha and Prasada styles of temple architecture. Hence these temples constitute a synthesis of the architectural and sculptural styles of North India and South India. Pattadakal is often described as an art historian’s dream because of the sculptural nuances that are found here. Pattadakal was known as ‘paTTada kisuvoLal’ and it was a place meant for the coronation of the kings. (PaTTa=Coronation) The name ‘kisuvolal’ is attributed to the presence of light red stones in the region.

Sangamaeshvara, Kadasiddeshvara, Jambulingeshvara, Galaganatha, Kashivishveshvara, Mallikarjuna, Virupaksha, Papanatha and a Jaina temple are the most important temples of Pattadakal. Chandrshekhara temple near the Virupaksha shrine is built in a simple style even though it seems to have greater claims for antiquity.

Sangameshvara temple built by Chalukya Vijayaditya Satyashraya (696-733 A.D.) in the Dravidian style is the most ancient among the important temples of Pattadakal. It bears some resemblance to the Pallava style of architecture also. This temple contains a ‘garbhagudi’, (Sanctum Sanctorum) ‘antarala’ and a meeting hall. (Sabhamantap) The main vimana of the Sangamesvara temple is of three storeys.The statues of Ganga, Yamuna, Nandi and Veerabhadra adorn the door frame and its neighborhood. The walls of the ‘garbhagudi’ are decorated with the carvings of Nataraja, Gajasuramardana and Ugra Narasimha. The ceiling of the sabhamantap stands on four rows of pillars, each row containing twenty pillars. Two towers on the garbhagudi are built in the Dravidian style and the ‘sukanaasi’ is conspicuous by its absence. The walls of the temple have the sculptures of Ardhanaareeshvara, Andhakaasura, Vishnu and Bhuuvaraha carved on them.

Virupaksha temple which was earlier known as Lokeshvara or Lokapaleshvara is the biggest and most beautiful temple in Pattadakal. This temple was built during the regime of Vikramaditya-2 (733-745 A.D.) by Loka Mahadevi, one of his queens. This architecture of this temple was inspired by Kailasanatha temple of Kanchi and in its turn the temple influenced the Kailas temple at Ellora. The temple stands in the middle of a court yard measuring 67 meters by 32 meters. There is cluster of small temples attached to the walls of the compound and the entrances to the temple are situated in the eastern and western walls of the compound. A Nandi Mantap whose ceiling rests on four circular pillars and whose lower walls are adorned with exquisitely sculpted elephants, dwarfs and Kinnaras is beautiful. A large and elaborate Nandi faces the temple.

The main temple stands at a distance of 5 M. from the Nandi Mantap. The meeting hall (sabhamantap) and the mukha mantaps that surround the temple contain a number of sculpted images both on the walls and the ceiling. Some pf them constitute a series depicting stories from Ramayana and Mahabharata. The carving of the chariot of the sun moving in clouds is worthy of special mention. Some of them draw their inspiration from nature and a few others depict contemporary social life.

“The whole of the interior of this temple is embellished with elegant carvings and aesthetically modeled sculptures. Episodes from the Ramayana (e.g. abduction of Sita) Mahabharata (e.g. Bhishma lying in a bed of arrows), Bhagavata (e.g. Krishna lifting the Govardhan mountain) and Kiratarjuniya (e.g. Arjuna receiving the Pasupatastra from Siva) are depicted on the pillars of the sabha- mandapa and the pilasters here have the sculptures of amorous couples and Rati and Manmatha. Flora, fauna and geometrical patterns adorn various parts of the temple. Doorjambs (dwara-shakhas) with their delicate carvings, pillars and pilasters with various types of capitals and carvings on their faces, lintels relieved with animals, birds and architectural motifs, ceilings depicting divine beings and the majestically standing dwarapalas all unfold a rich world of plastic art before the connoisseurs and attest to the heights reached by the Chalukyan sculptures.” (A.S.I. website)

Virupaksha temple holds a special place among the temples of Karnataka because it is a classic example of Chalukyan architecture and sculpture.

Mallikarjuna temple (740 A.D.) built by Trailokya Devi, another wife of Vijayaditya is located towards the north east of the Virupaksha temple and it is unique because it has a linga inside the garbha gudi but a sculpture of Garudavahana Vishnu on the door that leads to the sabhamantap. This temple is very similar to the Virupaksha temple in most details. However, this temple has a hemi-spherical roof (sikhara) as against the square roof of the Virupaksha temple. The carvings on the walls narrate sories from the Panchatantra and Harivamsha as well as the traditional stories of Ramayana and Mahbharata.

The Galaganatha temple located in the northern direction of the Virupaksha shrine was built in the eighth century and the garbha gudi houses a Shivalinga made of black stone installed much later in the 11th or 12th century. “This temple is a typical example of a finely evolved rekha-nagara prasada. It has on plan a sanctum (garbhagriha) housing a linga and a vestibule (antarala), both surrounded by a closed circumambulatory path (pradakshinapatha), a hall (sabha- mandapa) and an entrance porch (mukhamandapa). Of these mandapas, only the plinth is extant now..... The ornate doorframe of the outer chamber with five shakhas depicts the river goddesses at the base and dancing Siva on the lintel.” (Website of the A.S.I.)

Jambulingeshvara temple also is built in the ‘Nagara Rekha Praasaada’ style and is a Shiva temple. The niches in the outer walls of the ‘garbha gudi’ contain the sculptures of Vishnu, Lakuleesha and Ardhanareeshvara. This temple does not have a circumlocutory path. (Pradakshinapatha)

Papanatha temple which is on the banks of the river is relatively well preserved. It contains many exquisitely sculpted images. Architecturally this is a combination of the Dravidian style and the Nagara Rekha style. This temple documents the names of its sculptors. This appears to have been built is more than one phase.  

Kadasiddheshvara temple which is near by the Jambulinga shrine is similar to the former in style and size. The statues of Shiva and Parvathi seated on a Nandi and a statue of Brahma are the unique features of this temple. Kasi Visweswara temple too has a ‘naagarapraasaada’ shikhara. The idols of eight ‘dikpaalakas’, Tripurantaka, Ganga, Yamuna, Nataraja, Somaskanda and Garuda are unique to this temple.

The Jaina temple which stands away from the cluster of other temples on the road to Badami is also built in the Dravidian style is attributed to the ninth century. “This three-tiered temple with the two lower stories being functional is the last in the temple series at Pattadakal. Certain features exhibited in this temple became in the courses of time essential elements of the temples of the Kalyani Chalukyas. Excavation by the Archaeological Survey of India in the premises of the temple has brought to light the remains of a large temple complex built in bricks and also a beautiful sculpture of Tirthankara standing in sama-bhanga indicating the existence of a temple, probably belonging to the pre or beginning of the early Chalukyan rule.” (Website of the A.S.I.)

Almost all the temples of Pattadakal have some common features. They are characterized by grace and delicate details. The ceiling panels of the navagrahas, dikpalas, the dancing Nataraja, the wall niches containing Lingodbhava, Ardhanarisvara, Tripurari, Varahavishnu, Trivikrama bear ample testimony to the sculptor's skill as well as the cult worship in vogue. The narrative relief illustrating certain episodes from the Ramayana, Mahabharata, Bhagavata and Panchatantra fitted well with these grand religious edifices.

Pattadakal is also known for its archaeological findings proving the fact that it has seen human inhabitation right from the pre historic times. Stone weapons belonging to the Old Stone Age are found on the banks of the Malaprabha River . A huge stone cyst was found in the near by Bachanagudda village. The ruins of some brick structures probably belonging to the Satavahana era are found during excavations. Ptolemy the Greek geographer belonging to the 2nd century mentions Pattadakal as ‘pertagal’.

Some thirty inscriptions are found in Pattadakal. They are inscribed on the pillars, walls, ceilings and the pedestals of the statues. By and large they inform us about the sculptors who have built the temples as also the donations that were made to the temples at various points of time.

Pattadakal is inarguably one of the most cherished destinations of a lay man as well as an expert in the fields of architecture and sculpture.


References and Links:

1. Ancient India - Pattadakal


2. Group of Monuments at Pattadakal, Karnataka - Archaeological ...

3. Image results for Pattadakal

4. Pattadakal by George Michell, 2002, Oxford University Press, Monumental Legacy Series


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